Posted by: Brad Nixon | July 28, 2018

Two Spits in the Ocean: Ediz and Dungeness, Washington

If one ever gets enough of rugged, storm-tossed seashores, I’ve never heard of it happening.

Ediz Hook Brad Nixon 0383 640

That particular example is on Ediz Hook, a three-mile arm of land that separates the deep water harbor of Port Angeles, Washington from the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

While many such sand spits around the world have been formed by the action of currents and variations in the depth of the sea bottom, Ediz Hook got its start as a glacial moraine, and some of those rocks were deposited not by wave action but glacial ice. On top of it, the eastward flow of water through the Strait deposited sediment from the Elwha River, establishing Ediz Hook.

Seen from Port Angeles across almost two miles of harbor, it looks like this.

Port Angeles CG Brad Nixon 0258 640

That’s a U.S. Coast Guard Station, which occupies the eastern end of Ediz Hook, closest to the opening into the Strait. Port Angeles has the nearest deep water port to the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the port is a major employer in the city. The marine terminals handle a variety of forest and petroleum products, but another important role is repair and outfitting services, which is what brought the 289-meter long Alaskan Navigator there.

Alaskan Navigator Brad Nixon 0252 640

Port Angeles is also the terminal for the M.V. Coho ferry, which sails several times a day to Victoria, British Columbia, a 90-minute trip.

MV Coho Brad Nixon 0264 640

From out on Ediz Hook, though, even significantly large man-made things shrink to insignificance when seen at the foot of the Olympic mountain range, towering to the south.

PA view Brad Nixon 0375 640

M.V. Coho is moored at lower right.

On a clear day, which we were fortunate to have, the buildings of Victoria are visible across approximately 20 miles of water. Look to the northeast, even farther, and you may get a glimpse of 10,781-foot Mt. Baker, about 112 miles away.

Mt Baker Brad Nixon 0262 640

The Spit to the East

Only a dozen miles to the east is another, larger spit, the largest natural sand spit in the United States: Dungeness Spit.

Dungeness Spit 0423 640

The 6.8 mile spit encloses Dungeness Harbor. It’s not a major port, but you may know the name Dungeness after the (delicious) species of crab that takes its name from the place.

Dungeness Spit is narrow and low in the water. Unlike Ediz Hook, it isn’t aggressively maintained or protected, nor does it have a roadway, as Ediz does. Hikers who set out to walk its length can find themselves in precarious circumstances if they haven’t paid attention to the tide schedule.

Dungeness spit 0431 640

Here’s the view to the west, back toward Port Angeles, the Olympic range looming above.

Dungeness west 0427 640

Our knowledgeable local friend and guide made certain we checked the tide tables before we set out, advising us against the circumstance of having to make our way back by hopping from one large driftwood log to the next, surrounded by extremely cold water.

Depending on the tide, you may have a relatively easy or a rugged, rocky walk. If you reach the end (which we didn’t attempt), you’re at New Dungeness Lighthouse. Beyond it in the photo, another hazy glimpse of Mount Baker.

Dungeness Light 0425 640

That arm of land in front of the lighthouse is a secondary spit that branches off.

Dungeness Spit is enclosed within Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge.

Need a Ride to the Lighthouse?

If you’re extra-keen on lighthouses, you can arrange to spend a week as a lighthouse keeper at Dungeness. The lighthouse accommodates up to eight people. You pay for the privilege and have duties that include raising and lowering the flag, watering the grass, and — of course! — polishing the brass. Click here to visit the Lighthouse Keeper Program information. Oh yes, they transport you to the lighthouse in a four wheel drive vehicle.

Visiting Ediz Hook and Dungeness Spit

You can drive along most of Ediz Hook as far as the gates of the Coast Guard station. To reach it, drive west along any of the streets near the harbor in Port Angeles and continue on Marine Drive. Marine Drive gets narrow and bumpy, passing a large paper mill. Mind the speed limit. Marine becomes Ediz Hook Rd. There is no admission, and there is free parking at a number of spots, as well as a boat ramp out near the Coast Guard station. That’s also where you’ll see the operations of the Port Angeles and Puget Sound Pilot Boats.

Pilot boat Brad Nixon 0404 640

The most direct route to Dungeness Spit is to leave U.S. Route 101 at Kitchen-Dick Road a few miles west of Sequim (pronounced skwim). Drive north about three miles, and Kitchen-Dick bends right to become Lotzgesell Rd. Almost immediately you’ll see a sign to turn left to the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge on Voice of America Road. Continue into the refuge past several camping areas and park (free). There’s a $3 fee that covers groups of up to 4 people. It’s an easy half-mile walk along a paved path through dense forest, then a walk down to sea level, past a couple of stunning views at lookout points. Once you’re on the spit, you’re on your own. There are restrooms and interpretive information at the trailhead.

Ediz Dungeness map Google 640

Have a favorite spit of your own? No one ever gets enough dramatic ocean views. Leave a comment.

Licensable, high resolution versions of some photographs in this post, and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2018


  1. My continuing education by UWS: I never heard of a sandspit before today. Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just part of the service. You’re most welcome. The least one can do to reward faithful readers is “add value.” Sheesh


  2. It seems to me that “spit” might be a west coast term for the east coast “neck,” as in Throgg’s Neck. Or maybe “hook” is the equivalent. But I don’t think so, because the east coast has hooks, too — as in Sandy Hook. Maybe spits are more ephemeral. Or maybe a hook is a spitting image of a neck. Or…

    One thing’s certain: your hooks and spits are terrifically attractive. And when I got to the Lighthouse Keeper Program, I came to a full stop. My greatest fantasy always has been living in a lighthouse and trimming the wick — or whatever they do these days. I guess I listened to “The Eddystone Light” too many times as a kid. If I were given a choice between a week in a lighthouse and a week at an old fire watchtower in Montana, I’d be hard pressed to make the choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was, in fact, walking on Ediz Hook and and Dungeness Spit with my lifelong friend, who spent part of his childhood summers living in a tiny Pacific Northwest fire tower. I would guess the Shoreacres ethos might suggest, “Try both!” Normally I’d’ve done more etymology, but was working quickly. Old English had *spitu* but I’m uncertain if that was a spit for impaling meat or the landform. It’s possible/likely the landform is an imitative adoption of the implement shape. I’ll look into it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah, Washington. Did you manage to get to Vancouver or British Columbia on this journey? I really like your beach photos and sandspit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry to report that the main point of the trip was the trip to Victoria and then 5 days in Vancouver for a first-ever visit, to include the sights, hiking in the mountains, etc. I fell ill on the eve of leaving Port Angeles and we had to return home. We’ll be back.


Leave a Comment. I enjoy hearing from readers.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: